Appalachian Fair features new programs

    By Jennifer Lassiter
    star staff
  Appalachian Fair workers, in celebration of the upcoming annual county fair, which kicks off Friday and continues through Aug. 28, invited the media, fair employees, and guests to a barbecue dinner yesterday catered by House of Ribs.
  Marking its 78th year, according to its manager, Richard Shadden, the fair has incorporated new elements. This year the fair has an added flavor with two special programs, "The Crystal Casket" and "The Bullet Smith". Smith will be launching himself as a human cannonball regularly during the nine-day event.
  Fear is definitely not a factor for Johnny Sands the "International King of Escapes" who will be performing the featured attraction, "The Crystal Casket".
   Sands will be submerged in 600 gallons of water inside a stainless steel glass-topped casket each day of the fair. From the time the gates open until they close, Sands will remain in the closed casket.
  Spawned from Houdini's act "Bird Alive", Sands describes his performance as no magic trick. Houdini performed a similar act with dirt, but he had room for air, in a secret escape compartment. "He had a chair and even sandwiches while underground," said Sands.
  Sands spends hours preparing for his underwater endurance act. No food, no water and no bathroom break. "It takes concentration and meditation," said Sands.
  Experienced in stunt work for 35 years, Sands keeps a folder filled with all his feats and news clippings as memoirs of his experiences. He proudly wears a beret given to him by the NYPD while performing in New York City in 2001. Shortly after his time there, when the Twin Towers were bombed they contacted him with minor changes to the cap - a symbol of remembrance to those killed.
  A former military man, Sands turned 59-years-old on Tuesday and is still fighting. According to Sands he is a soldier for the children. "The battle is ours," he said. All proceeds collected during his performance at the fair will go to Saint Jude's Children's Hospital.
  When asked if he is afraid, he said, "Any stunt man who stops being afraid is a fool." While underwater, Sands focuses on his cause; he has yet to pull the plug during an event.
  Six more fairs remaining, Sands hopes that, when all is said and done, he will never see a coffin again. "I told my wife next time I'm in a coffin pinch me real hard and make sure I'm dead," he said.
  Since 1962 Saint Jude's Children's Hospital has raised the survival rate for catastrophic diseases for over 19,000 children across the country. Operations and treatment and care for the children costs approximately $715,200 daily.
  The Appalachian Fair has something for everyone. Creative cooking, wildlife exhibits, petting zoos, craftsmen demonstrations as well as music from the Oak Ridge Boys, Mike Snider, Arron Tippin, Clay Walker, Chris Cagle, Randy Travis and more.
  For adrenaline junkies, the Midway is packed full of rides to make you scream. There are also rides for children and plenty to eat. Local talent will compete by showing off their special skills.
  For more information about the Appalachian Fair and special event days please call 423-477-3211 or visit their Web site at